Free Us from School Nutrition

Politicians are playing with food lately, or more specifically with school nutrition standards. In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act became law and USDA standards for more nutritious foods at school have been taking effect ever since then. Approximately 90% of schools are meeting these higher standards, says the USDA.

But with backing from some food and food service companies, the School Nutrition Association is asking for a relaxation of those standards. And they are finding a sympathetic audience with some politicians. In a hearing last week, Alabama Republican Robert Adderholt said, “I continually hear from my schools in Alabama about the challenges and costs they are facing and their desperation for flexibility and relief so that they can operate a [school meal] program serving healthy foods the kids will eat.”

Alabama has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

This is naturally decaying into a partisan debate, with politicians angling for an advantage. Republicans are looking to strengthen nutrition programs in rural areas that tilt toward them, while taking funding from those same programs in more urban areas that lean to the Democrats. And so goes the food fight. Health advocates are dismayed. Howell Wechsler of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation sums it up well, saying:

As we soon close out the school year, we should be celebrating — not rolling back — the great progress that schools have made toward implementing the USDA’s school nutrition standards.

Hunger, obesity, and poor nutrition hurt everyone.

Click here to read more from NPR and here to read more from Slate.

Julia’s School Cafetria, image © Christopher Tassava / flickr

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